过中秋节 celebrating mid-autumn festival

So today was the Mid-Autumn Festival here in China. The festival can most easily be compared to America’s Thanksgiving (both take place in the fall, most everyone returns home) but the reasons behind celebrating the  Mid-Autumn Festival are wrapped in folk lore and legend which is a little bit more interesting than a big meal between the Native Americans and Pilgrims.

The legend (as my roommate explained to me) is about the 10 suns that the Earth used to have. They would all take turns each day going around the Earth and warming it up. One day all ten suns came at once and burned all the crops and loads of other stuff on Earth. The emperor at that time asked an archer to shoot down all but one of the suns to save Earth from being completely torched. After that, he gave him a pill that could make him into a god. Instead of eating the pill the archer hid it away. After that his wife ends up swallowing the pill and flying off to the moon (where she coughed it back up). The hare that lives on the moon will try to make her more medicine so that she can go home. But that really doesn’t happen I guess… Anyways, the archer builds himself a house on the sun (or something) in direct contrast to his wife living on the moon and the Mid-Autumn Festival is the day when the archer from the sun visits his wife on the moon and the moon gets very full and beautiful.

While today, I really didn’t run into anything that resembled or reflected this story (other than the many tasty mooncakes that I ate), its still pretty interesting stuff that you don’t get the opportunity to hear everyday. Mooncakes, little pastries that are sold EVERYWHERE have sort of transformed into this massive consumer trend where everyone buys a lot of mooncakes and sends them to relatives, co-workers, and bosses. My roommate was telling me that he knows some people who send out more than 1000 a year. They might just be the Christmas cards from hell.

Today was an absolutely perfect day for this holiday as we didn’t have classes and the weather was pristine. Beijing is starting to get that chilly fall “crisp” even though the leaves have not started changing yet. My roommate invited me out to lunch with his family which ended up being a great way to spend the sunny afternoon.

We rode a crowded bus for 45 minutes which isn’t that horrible of a commute time considering how big Beijing is and how congested the streets can become. We arrived at the restaurant where we ate a feast all sorts of meat, fish, vegetables, and desserts. This is where the comparisons with Thanksgiving are appropriate, there was a TON of food. I kept having to take short breaks while stuffing it all in while making sure to eat at a quick enough pace to appease my roommates mother and grandmother who constantly urged me to try this dish or keep eating more of that dish. When I left the table they even gave me a bottle of 白酒 (Chinese Hard Alcohol) to bring back with me to the dorm. I kept telling them that I didn’t want such an expensive gift but they didn’t allow me to refuse.

After lunch, Wangdaihui and I headed to this very close street that used to be populated with ancient colleges and universities. He had lived in this area his entire life so it was interesting to hear him compare his experiences freely playing around all through all these old buildings, ruins, and courtyards with the present mass tour groups, blocked off areas, and museums that have completely changed the area in the last 15 years. It was interesting, however, to trace the historical development of the intense tests that all men had to take previously, in order to establish or improve their rank in society. The coolest thing of the day was checking out this temple and huge complex built and devoted to Confucius.

Here are some pictures!

cubicle that men had to stay in for 3 days while taking the mandatory tests

center of the confucian temple

cool sheets of paper you could hand up with different sayings on them

After we checked out temple we hopped on the subway and returned to campus. However, my day of fun was not at all over as a bunch of the American students went out at night to take a stroll around a park and check things out. Once again the weather was perfect for this and we hit the park at the perfect time and got to watch day slowly turn into night. The park is really close to the CCTV (Central China Television) broadcasting tower and it was really cool to see it all lit up at night. Check out the pictures below. The CCTV is the tallest building in Beijing!

CCTV tower as the sun goes down

moon appears during the day !

traffic outside of the park

lake in the park

tower at night…pretty!

So that was my day!


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